[EDITOR’S NOTE – Clemson University Extension expert Tony Melton is a regular contributor to SPW. If you have an article you or idea you’d like to contribute, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Believe it or not you better hurry up and get those warm-season-fall-vegetables planted.
It may be hotter than the sun-baked South Carolina sand to a barefoot baby, but you need to spray, flame, or till those weeds that have taken over your spring crops and start fresh and new.
Yes, flame, the same practice that our grandfathers used to kill weeds, is back and working fantastically for organic farmers without tilling the soil. All techniques work best if you kill the weeds before they go to seed and increases the amount of weed seed present in your soil.
Also, remember that tilling the soil tends to bring more weed seed to the surface increasing your weeds problems.
Personally, I like to use any technique possible to reduce what we call the weed-seed-bank or the amount of weed seed in the top 2 inches of your soil.
These are considered forms of stall-bed-culture, and are used in no-till planting which is a major form of production for many row-crops farmers but can be used successfully in vegetable farming.
Remember glyphosate and especially gramoxone have drift potential. I wish I had a quarter for every plant I have seen with bright yellow leaves indicating glyphosate damage or round tan spots indicating gramoxone drift Remember the label is the law; therefore, always follow all label directions.
Multiple Crops A ‘Southern Privilege’
We may have to put up with the heat but eat your heart out northerners. It is a Southern privilege to plant two, three or more crops on the same land in the same year.
You still have a few weeks to plant short season vegetables like snap beans, cucumbers, and summer squash. However, you may want to plant some now and more later, what we call consecutive plantings, to extend your harvest season.
Also, it is time to begin planting cool-season vegetables especially if you want consecutive plantings. You can start direct seeding in the field but irrigation is a necessity with this heat; however, many cool season crops can still be seeded in trays to produce transplants.
Remember, most of the warm season vegetables will have many insect and disease problems in the fall that require some means of control. Many growers apply a fungicide and an insecticide treatment on a weekly basis; however, using IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and scouting techniques will provide you with critical information to use the proper control products at the proper time.
Cover Crop Is Better Than Weeds
Remember, there is a problem with all cucurbits (cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, and watermelons) called resistant downy mildew because that is very difficult to control. Always look at the costs of the resistant downy mildew control products when determining if you want to grow cucurbits in the fall.
Even if you don’t want to grow fall vegetables it is much better to plant a cover crop on the area to prevent weeds from dominating and building the weed-seed-bank. One of my favorite new cover crops is sunhemp.
It is not what comes to most people’s mind — it’s not actually a true hemp, it is a crotalaria and a legume. It quickly grows to 5 – 8 feet tall, produces crop usable nitrogen in the soil, and outcompetes/shades-out most weeds.
If you cannot find the sunhemp my next cover crop choice is Southern peas which again is a legume but also produces a harvestable crop. Remember, plants or even a thick mulch is much better than thick weeds.
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